"We are family" declared the song which blared out to greet the new father figure, Carson Yeung, to the first home match since his £81.5million takeover of Birmingham. There was a warm welcome, too, for the prodigal son, Steve Bruce, but from then on the reunion turned sour for Sunderland's manager.
Bruce had no complaints about Birmingham's success but used his post-match media briefing to launch a withering attack on their former managing director Karren Brady, who he said made "nicey-nicey" remarks about him in a newspaper yesterday. "All the patronising stuff from Ms Brady I find very galling," he said. "She shafted me over my contract and was selling players from underneath me."
On his first return to St Andrew's since leaving two years ago, Bruce saw his latest club outplayed by a Birmingham team under Alex McLeish who looked intent on marking the era of Chinese ownership with a win. Goals by Liam Ridgewell and James McFadden put them in control and Sunderland's belated rally produced only an own goal by Scott Dann.
McLeish described the new regime as "ecstatic" after their winning start. The former Scotland manager admitted it was "a very important game for the whole club". Of the centre-backs, Roger Johnson and Dann, he added: "I saw Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent at Manchester United and they were tremendous. They can be proud of their performance against them."
Birmingham's breakthrough came just before half-time after a scrappy opening period and stemmed from a right-footed free-kick from the left by Sebastian Larsson. Ridgewell, who may have been in an offside position, claimed the vital touch off a knee.
They doubled their lead three minutes after the break with a goal as classy as the opener was messy. Larsson's chipped pass coaxed a back-heeled flick by Cameron Jerome that Eric Cantona would have been proud of. McFadden's route to goal was blocked by Phil Bardsley, but he cut inside and from 12 yards had to composure to opt for placement rather than power.
Bruce threw on three substitutes simultaneously and with eight minutes remaining, Michael Turner's head beat the hands of goalkeeper Joe Hart to Andy Reid's free-kick. The ball may have been drifting wide but Dann's attempted clearance ensured it finished in the net. Bent, bidding to become the first Sunderland player to score in six successive top-flight fixtures since Trevor Ford in 1951, missed a gilt-edged chance to equalise, completing a bitter return for Bruce.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Johnson
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content